Who owns monkey selfie? Photographer says monkey was like his assistant


Monkey saw and monkey did -- and now a British photographer says he’s out thousands of dollars because of it.

On a trip to Indonesia in 2011, wildlife photographer David Slater set up his equipment to try to capture images of a bunch of crested black macaques, a critically endangered species on the island of Sulawesi. The animals are famous for their pinkish rumps and punkish tufts of hair on their heads.

Curious, one of the more intrepid macaques grabbed a camera and ran off with it.


Whether intentionally or not, the creature wound up pressing the shutter button repeatedly and taking hundreds of shots, including some remarkable self-portraits in which it appears to be grinning and mugging.

The simian selfies went viral on the Internet and eventually wound up on the Wikimedia website, an online library of millions of photos that it says belong to the public domain.

Slater, who hails from Gloucestershire, in England, went bananas, alleging copyright violation and demanding that Wikimedia remove the photos. But the organization has refused, contending that, because Slater didn’t actually take the photos, he couldn’t assert rights to them.

“Hey, hey, it’s the monkey’s,” one British news outlet snickered on its website, though, to be accurate, Wikimedia does not claim that the macaque owns the copyright but, rather, that no one does.

Slater says the decision is costing him thousands of dollars in lost royalties, and that he played a bigger role in the creation of the famous snaps than he’s being given credit for.

“The work that went behind it, in terms of putting the camera on a tripod, setting the image up ... it required a large input from myself, and that’s why I own [the] copyright,” he told the BBC.

“You could look at it like this: The monkey was my assistant. And therefore I was the artist behind the image and I had my assistant press the button. This needs to be tested in a court of law.”

Perhaps one that sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil.

Follow @HenryHChu on Twitter for news from Europe